A Rambling Reader, and ‘What We’re Reading’

I’ve posted before about being a rabbit-trail-reader. You know, where one book leads to another and then another, a conversation leads to four new topics, a chapter leads to twelve new thoughts, a quote or foreword leads to another author, a book review leads to another addition, then repeat, ad infinitum. Though rabbit trails, imply going around in circles leading nowhere, so perhaps a “rambling reader” is more appropriate? I mean, I get to all sorts of places, but the expediency of arriving to the last page in a timely manner is certainly hindered! Every so often though, I try to take a good look at my random, seemingly disconnected stack, and think over how they got there (often providentially) and where they’ve taken me so far…

The Sun Also Rises, began a few months ago, because my husband, Kevin, loves Hemingway. Hemingway provides him with a nostalgic juxtaposition of prior hopelessness to our current hope. I started it at the beginning of winter during a hard season where I was struggling to grasp the closeness and personal love of God. Let’s just say, Hemingway may not be the best read during a winter depression, so it was temporarily shelved until warmer days.

Studying the galaxy with my kids around the same time, led me to Carl Sagan’s, Pale Blue Dot (it has one of my very favorite quotes I’ll have to do a whole post about one of these days). I’m telling you, one of the best ways to grasp the vastness of God is to read a brilliant atheist describe how unfathomably tiny we are in relation to the cosmos. It’s fascinating.

The next step, I figured, in filling the gap between a vast God and our tiny selves, is a study of the Holy Spirit. Forgotten God, by Francis Chan, is a great, quick read to start with, though not quite the depth I needed, which then led to a few weightier books on the topic. I already had Meredith Kline’s, Images of the Spirit on my shelf, so I dove in while awaiting a few more that are on the way. Any other recommendations on this topic?

A Room Called Remember, has been on my shelf forever, and so beautifully says things we need to hear. I pulled it out at the perfect time, because I’d be hard pressed to think of anyone better than Frederick Buechner to describe the hope that Hemingway and Sagan overlooked

A perfectly-timed, sunny trip in the middle of December resulted in a few more additions, including the raw, but beautiful, A Grief Observed. It may seem like an odd vacation read, but Kevin and I usually read Shelden Vanauken’s,  A Severe Mercy (our favorite book) on vacations together, and this seemed like a logical sequel in many ways. L’Engle did the foreword, which led me to, Circle of Quiet, and we quickly devoured her ramblings on writing, creativity, and ontological selves. So good. Andrew Peterson’s, Adorning the Dark, is a great complement to these topics as he discusses creativity and callings in a dark world (I’m only a few chapters in).

My 8th grader is reading my copy of Annie Dillard’s, Pilgrim at Tinker Creek, for school, so I snagged, Teaching a Stone to Talk, for fifty-cents at a library sale, to fill the Dillard void in my stack until he’s done. I always try to have some poetry going, so I invested in Mary Oliver’s, Devotions, collection, because the way she humbly observes the stark beauty of creation reminds me of Dillard.

Last Call for Liberty, was from last year’s stack, but Os Guinness is working on somewhat of a sequel, and he shared the introduction with us spurring many discussions on freedom, liberty, and it’s relation to the Exodus of Israel, and I had to re-visit it. Os recommended Stefan Zweig’s, Messages from a Lost World. A Jewish writer who fled Germany during the rise of Hitler, and his chapter on, “The Secret of Artsitic Creation,” complements L’Engle in an interesting way. An atheist attempting to navigate the ugliness of war and the depressing future of humanity with the beauty of artistic creation is fascinating. I had just begun Reinhold Niebuhr’s book, The Children of Light an the Children of Darkness, based on a Trinity Forum recommendation (founded by Os in 1991), and only a few pages in, it already added to our discussions on democracy and freedom within the framework of order. This same idea was likewise wonderfully alluded to in L’Engle’s discussion of art (“we are a generation which is crying loudly to tear down all structure in order to find freedom, and discovering, when order is demolished, that instead of freedom we have death”).

Don’t you love when so many unrelated books you’re reading, by people of all different faiths and backgrounds and centuries, mirror such similar ideas? Truth transcends time and space.

The rest were our read-alouds. Kevin has been reading, Swallowdale, to our oldest who has already read all of Arthur Ransome’s, Swallows and Amazons series, but they’ve always enjoyed slowly re-reading them together. I don’t know why I had put off, Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland, as a read-aloud for so long, but the girls and I read a large, beautifully illustrated (though unabridged) copy snagged from the same library sale, and they absolutely loved it. We’re in the middle of, A Little Princess, now and they are equally engaged. There’s just something about the way Frances Hodgson Burnett, gives them characters who so innocently exhibit goodness amongst badness, that provides them with an attainable, simple, and tangible “good vs evil” in a hard and dark world; in ways even the youngest can comfortably grasp and yearn for (her, Little Lord Fauntleroy, has long been a family favorite for this very reason).

Any other additions you’d recommend adding to our current rambling stack?

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Want to know what love looks like?

Take a look at that first picture. It’s not as much the beautiful photo on the left, but the even more beautiful photo on the right, taken over 70 years later. On this past Saturday—the evening before Easter morn.

…And all those nights and days in between that moment he held his bride—the pretty, smart, feisty Sicilian he’d known since they were 14—promising her, “in sickness and in health, ‘till death do us part,” and that moment he held his bride as she left his arms for those of her Savior—having lived out his promises to her, as she had for him.

Because while an “I do,” is always a lovely thing to hear, it’s the doing, and sacrificing, and holding, and protecting, and forgiving, and fighting for, and running with, and caring for, and one day letting go—it’s the “I have done,” that is so beautifully breathtaking.

They loved each other and their Lord so well. Our celebration of her life is so much a celebration of their love, because I never knew one without the other.

And while I mourn the loss of that “them” on this side of heaven, I rejoice that they so beautifully lived out and foreshadowed the even more glorious, never-ending, never-having-to-let-go “them,” we can experience on that side of heaven. The one our dear Zena is experiencing now, and her dear EJ, one day will with her.

What a beautiful thing it was for us to wake up the next morning on Easter Sunday, and be reminded that because of the words:

“It is finished.”

“He has risen!”

“I believe.”

…we can confidently proclaim, “We will see you again!”

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Hands Worth Holding

Hey, baby girl. If you’re gonna find a guy later, find one like him. One who loves you every ounce as much when things are falling apart as he does when things are wonderful.

Like when you’re having a meltdown on the boardwalk because too much sun and too little sleep leaves you at less than your best. And things like walking and eating ice cream simultaneously feel like a really big deal, yet stopping to eat it feels bigger.

But guys like him just hold your hand and wipe your tears and patiently spoon feed you while you take deep breaths and walk at that perfect pace that’s not so fast that you feel out of control, but not so slow that you feel left behind.

And it gives you the chance to remember who you are and who made you.

Those are the kind of hands worth holding and shoulders worth leaning on. Trust me on that one…

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Strong Shoulders

One of the first things I noticed about Kevin were his arms. They were strong and muscular and completely different than mine. Yet over the years as we live and walk and fall together, I realized I’ve grown to be far more thankful for his shoulders. While arms can fight and embrace, shoulders tend to do more supporting and lifting and quietly carrying. And all I can say, is his shoulders are strong and steady.

Anyone who knows Kevin, knows that he says what he thinks. I’ve always loved this about him.

Most anyone can say strong words strongly, or soft words softly, but far fewer can say true words with gentleness and meek words with mightiness. And he’s grown into this so well.

He sees what people are good at and he tells them, he writes notes with genuine words to encourage people, he’s honest with himself and others when he’s weak or wrong, he loves developing someone’s strengths, he tells me how he loves me and why, he desires his words to be true and good.

He’s the most incredibly wonderful mesh of strong and gentle, real and relaxed, serious and humorous.

At any given moment he could be walking me through an art museum pointing out his favorite paintings, or forcing me to watch some dumb YouTube video. Listening to Bach Cello Suite No. 1 in G major, or Blink 182. Reading poetry, or quoting Calvin and Hobbes and Dumb and Dumber. Discussing Dostoevsky, Spurgeon, and business strategies, or the latest Premiere League drama and standings. Texting me photos of architecture he admires and quotes he finds inspiring, or ridiculous memes and practical jokes he’s playing at work. Watching a documentary on the history of National Parks, or laughing at re-runs of The Office. Demolishing kitchen cabinets, or playing dollhouse with his little girls.

Happy Birthday to my best friend, my closest friend, my cutest friend, my deepest friend, my funniest friend, my steadiest friend, and my favorite friend!

Forever thankful for your kind heart and your strong shoulders…
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Thirteen years. Sounds like a lot and a little all at the same time.

When we spent our very first anniversary moving, renovating, and hugely pregnant, we should have guessed that the majority of the ones to follow would be commemorated while doing one or more of those same three things.
I guess when you love making homes and you love each other, you end up with a plethora of broken houses and babies.

We sometimes joke with couples who are young and freshly in love that they probably shouldn’t do what we did. We say all sorts of foreign-sounding things to them like “wait” and “travel,” and “date nights,” and “family planning,” and “maintenance-free apartments.”

Some evenings we talk and dream about what our life would be like if we had just done a tiny bit more “normal.”

But the more we’ve talked and lived, the more we’ve realized the limitations of “one-size-fits-all” types of advice. We’ve made some naive and crazy decisions, and have a bad habit of biting off way more than we can comfortably chew, but I just can’t imagine we’d have the same marriage if we’d lived such a different life.

There’s something about saying “I do” and immediately jumping blind-folded into the deep end, young and barely knowing how to swim that can do crazy things to two people.

You either sink or you ungracefully cling to each other with everything you’ve got. And sometimes the whole becoming one flesh thing happens seamlessly almost by accident. Not because we were good at it, or read the right books, or knew what we were doing, but because it’s the only way we could keep from drowning, and God is good and full of grace.
And while I don’t necessarily recommend that approach, I don’t regret it either.

Because I wonder if we’d have figured out how to love each other so deeply, and fiercely, and necessarily, if we had cautiously eased in. I’m a pretty independent, self-reliant, never-ask-for-help type when I’m not drowning.
But God is big enough and loving enough to use these tsunamis we probably keep bringing on ourselves, to show me we’re so much stronger in our clinging and togetherness than we’d probably ever have pulled off on our own or if we’d cautiously eased our way in.

And here I am four babies, seven renovations, ten houses, twelve bathroom remodels, and thirteen anniversaries into this whole marriage thing and to be completely honest, I am still drowning. We’ve been living out of suitcases for over a year and are more unsettled than we’ve ever been. But while life and marriage can be hard, being in love with this guy can be just so easy. He has a kind heart and really strong shoulders. He loves me so patiently and practically and thoroughly.

The great thing about learning how to be in love when you’re gasping for air, is it’s just that much sweeter and appreciated to be able to do it when you finally catch your breath (even if just for a moment).

And man, I can’t wait to do just a little more normal and slower and settled together.

“If it’s half as good as the half we’ve known, here’s Hail! to the rest of the road.” ~Sheldon Vanauken

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A 4-year-old’s List for Her Future Husband

4-year-old and I hanging out in the kitchen:

Nora: “So Mommy, what should we talk about? I know, let’s talk about husbands!”

Me: “Sure, what about them?”

N: “I wanna talk about how I’m going to get one. You know, in some more years.”

Me: “What do you think he’ll be like?”

N: “WELL. He’s going to be kind, funny…grateful. Tall like Daddy but more hairs. Not sprinkles like Daddy’s hairs. He’ll build things, like houses. And sometimes he’ll give me rings when I DON’T even ASK for them! And I’m going to get HIM presents on Amazon. As long as he doesn’t look at them first. He’ll hug me ALL the time and he’ll be strong, and caring, and…delicate. [Pause]…Hm, is delicate the right word?”

Me: “Delicate means kind of, fragile.”

N: “No. That’s not right. My husband will be sturdy. …Are you writing all of these down?”

Me: “Um, no. Would you like me to?”

N: “Yes. Write them on a list, please. Then when I find the man who will be my husband, I’ll send him over to your house and you can give him my list.”

I can’t handle this.

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My Brazil-Bound Baby

My husband, Kevin, went to Brazil for the first time 9 years ago when my oldest, Caleb, was one. I was pregnant with my second and could barely get out of bed or keep anything down. To top it off, Caleb came down with a stomach bug while Kevin was gone (with the rest of my family)…and it was rough. My heart was ugly and I remember laying on the floor watching my baby toddling around needing things from me I couldn’t provide.

I never imagined that almost a decade later, this same needy baby boy would be confidently boarding a plane with his Daddy, passport in hand, to finally meet these people he’s grown up hearing about and seeing and watching and praying for. His Brazilian family. People we’ve known longer than him and have watched grow up and have kids of their own. People parts of my own family now live amongst. A remote little corner of the globe that by the grace of God, looks so very different than it did over a decade ago.

I pray that my worries will be overshadowed by my joy. The kind of joy that comes from sending my child off to a place where so many people already know his name and have likewise seen pictures of him growing up. Where God has done big things that I’m praying he’ll see and understand. Where he can meet and squeeze his new little baby cousin who one day will probably help him learn a language he wasn’t born speaking.
And though I’ll miss him and his Daddy like crazy, I pray these people will teach him and change him and become HIS people too by the time he makes it back to me…

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Sweatpants Anniversaries

What anniversaries look like when you accidentally have too many kids, and leaving the house just feels hard…

Plan B= Putting your myriad of children to bed at 6pm, and dining on Thai food takeout while we reminisce about the last 11 years and pretend we’re not wearing sweatpants. And loving it.

Because this guy has my heart. Whether we’re honeymooning in Costa Rica, unpacking moving boxes for the 7th time, listening to our babies’ first heartbeats, remodeling our 12th bathroom, watching the sun rise over the Chesapeake, scrubbing little boy pee off the side of infinity toilets, sharing a bottle of wine over The Office re-runs, navigating IKEA, or daydreaming about traveling the world together… He’s just it.

The graciously strong and kind guy, God graciously and kindly gave me because he knew I’d need pushed forward, pulled back, and held up. And he knew I’d need someone as hilarious as Kevin who could somehow make all that incredibly fun.

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